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James Clear
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James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares ideas for using behavior science to improve your performance and master your habits. For fresh ideas on how to live a healthy life — both mentally and physically — join his free newsletter. Or, download his 45-page guide called Transform Your Habits.

Entries by James Clear

What Are You Measuring In Your Life?

(0) Comments | Posted February 26, 2015 | 11:23 AM

Imagine this...

Someone walks into the gym, warms up, does a little bit of this exercise, does a little bit of that exercise, bounces around to a few machines, maybe hops on the treadmill, finishes their workout, and leaves the gym.

This isn't a critique of their workout. In fact,...

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Breaking Bad Habits: How Vietnam War Veterans Broke Their Heroin Addictions

(2) Comments | Posted February 20, 2015 | 4:20 PM

It was 1971 and the Vietnam War was heading into its 16th year when two congressmen, Robert Steele from Connecticut and Morgan Murphy from Illinois, made a discovery that stunned the American public.

While visiting the troops in Vietnam, the two congressmen discovered that over 15 percent of U.S. soldiers...

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Mozart as Medicine: The Health Benefits of Music

(1) Comments | Posted February 18, 2015 | 1:24 PM

David Binanay started playing the violin when he was 5. By age 12, he performed at the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York City and, soon after, at the White House.

In 2006, fresh off graduation from Villanova University, Binanay was positioned perfectly to build his life around music....

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How to Build Skills That Are Valuable: Lessons Learned From Selling Matches

(0) Comments | Posted February 12, 2015 | 8:32 PM

In the early 1940s, a young boy was growing up in the small county of Almhult in southern Sweden. Within a few years, he would impact millions of people. At the time, however, nobody knew his name.

The boy was occupied with a small and relatively simple project. He had...

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The Physics of Productivity: Newton's Laws of Getting Stuff Done

(1) Comments | Posted February 7, 2015 | 1:29 PM

In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton published his groundbreaking book, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, which described his three laws of motion. In the process, Newton laid the foundation for classical mechanics and redefined the way the world looked at physics and science.

What most people don't know, however,...

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How Creative Geniuses Come Up With Great Ideas

(1) Comments | Posted February 5, 2015 | 5:40 PM

In 2002, Markus Zusak sat down to write a book.

He began by mapping out the beginning and the end of the story. Then, he started listing out chapter headings, pages of them. Some made it into the final story, many were cut.

When Zusak began to write out the...

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Measure Backward, Not Forward

(0) Comments | Posted January 30, 2015 | 4:44 PM

We often measure our progress by looking forward. We set goals. We plan milestones for our progress. Basically, we try to predict the future to some degree.

We do this in business, in health, and in life at large.

  • Can we increase our quarterly earnings by 20 percent?
  • Can I...
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This Simple Equation Reveals How Habits Shape Your Health, Happiness and Wealth

(0) Comments | Posted January 29, 2015 | 4:10 PM

In 1936, a man named Kurt Lewin wrote a simple equation that changed the way we think about habits and human behavior.

The equation makes the following statement: Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment. [1]

Lewin's Equation

Known today as Lewin's Equation,...

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How to Build Muscle: Proven Strength Lessons From Milo of Croton

(1) Comments | Posted January 22, 2015 | 6:08 PM

Nearly 2,500 years ago, there was a man of incredible strength and athleticism roaming the hills of southern Italy. His name was Milo of Croton, and he was almost certainly the most successful wrestler of his day.

Milo was a six-time wrestling champion at the Ancient Olympic Games in Greece....

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3 Simple Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

(0) Comments | Posted January 22, 2015 | 12:43 PM

A lot of people want to build an exercise habit that sticks. (A 2012 survey analyzed the top ten habits of thousands of people and found that exercise was number one by a long shot. [1])

Of course, wanting to make exercise a habit and actually doing it are two...

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How to Sleep Better: The 3 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

(3) Comments | Posted January 15, 2015 | 8:22 AM

Most people aren't getting enough sleep, plain and simple. But -- and this is the important thing to realize -- we don't recognize that we are sleep deprived.

In my comprehensive article on the science of sleep, "The Beginner's Guide to Overcoming Sleep Deprivation," I covered this problem,...

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How Constraints Make You Better: Why the Right Limitations Can Boost Performance

(0) Comments | Posted January 4, 2015 | 9:37 AM

In 1930, a 23-year-old teacher in Uruguay named Juan Carlos Ceriani created a new sport. Ceriani wanted to design a game that was similar to soccer, but that his students could play indoors throughout the year. His new game became known as futsal.

Futsal is very similar to soccer, but...

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What I Do When It Feels Like My Work Isn't Good Enough

(0) Comments | Posted December 23, 2014 | 5:19 PM

In the beginning, it was easy. There was no pressure. There were no outside eyes. There were no expectations.

When I started writing, I wrote in a private document for over a year before I published my first article on JamesClear.com. I wrote about what I wanted to write about....

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Avoid the Second Mistake

(0) Comments | Posted December 19, 2014 | 9:53 AM

So often, we make the mistake of believing that sticking to good habits is an all-or-nothing game. (I say "we" because I've been there before as well.)

  • We assume that if we slip up on our diet, then we have ruined the whole thing.
  • We act like missing one day...
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10 Lessons Learned From Squatting 400 Pounds

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 1:12 PM

Last week, I set a new personal record by squatting 405 pounds (184 kilograms).

If you're interested, here is a short video of the lift...

I have plenty of friends who can squat more weight--and a few who regularly squat over 500 pounds--but this was my first time passing the 400-pound mark so I'd like to share a few lessons I learned along the way.

10 Lessons Learned

1. Live in the arena instead of judging from the crowd. Every Monday and Thursday, I publish a new article on JamesClear.com with my ideas on habits, performance, and improvement. I enjoy writing and I try to make each article a great one. That said, anyone can share an opinion. It is easy to sit in the crowd and offer suggestions (or point fingers). It is much harder to step into the arena and do the work. This is one of the reasons why I lift: I don't merely want to share ideas, I want to live them out.

2. Don't miss workouts. Here's the recipe for squatting 400 pounds:

  • Squat two or three times per week.
  • Increase by about 5 pounds every week or two.
  • Don't miss a workout for two years.

I would wager to say that most young, healthy men could squat double bodyweight if they followed that simple program. That said, the exact numbers aren't the point. The point is that it doesn't matter what program you do, how smart you think you are, or what genes you were or weren't born with. Unless you fall in love with boredom and do the work consistently, everything else is irrelevant.

3. When in doubt, go slower. The name of the game is to not miss workouts and make small improvements and that means one simple thing: don't get hurt. For the last 18 months, I have been training on a basic 5×5 program, but in recent weeks I switched to the more intense Smolov squat program. During the fifth week of Smolov, most people add 10 pounds from the previous week. I decided to only increase by 5 pounds. It was still an improvement, but a slightly smaller, safer, and more sustainable one. The best program in the world is useless if you're injured.

4. You are a reflection of your daily average. Your results in nearly any area of life are often a reflection of what you do on an average day. Increase your average speed and you'll increase your results. Previously, I was averaging about 25 reps per squat workout (typically 5 sets of 5 reps). During the past two months, my squat volume increased to about 35 reps per workout (and often with heavier weights). Guess what? My average went up and my maximum strength went with it.

5. Self-care is crucial. Stress is cumulative and recovery is not negotiable. I knew the intensity of my workouts would increase with the Smolov squat program and so I made sure to learn how to get better sleep. There were multiple days when I slept for 10 hours. I also did something I almost never do: I stretched my legs and used a foam roller nearly every day. Despite the intensity of the program, my increased focus on recovery balanced things out. There were even a few days when my legs felt fresh.

6. Push yourself past the point of comparison. There is something magical about physical struggle that can remove mental fear. It can be easy to walk into a gym and fear what others around you are thinking.

  • "Does that guy think I'm weak?"
  • "Do I look stupid?"
  • "Am I doing this right?"
  • "Are other people comparing themselves to me?"

If you push yourself far enough, these questions fade away. When the weight gets big enough, it commands all of your attention. You don't care what the girl across the room thinks. You don't care if people watch you or ignore you. You don't care if it's raining outside or if your shorts and shoes don't match or if the guy in the checkout line this morning was rude to you. The only thing you care about in that moment is surviving. I think there is something powerful about that. If you can learn to ignore what the world thinks for a few seconds when you're holding onto the bar, maybe you can learn to do it in other areas of life. Keep your eyes on your own paper.

7. Focus on volume before intensity. I have been lifting weights for over a decade, but many of those years were spent training for other sports. It really wasn't until the last 18 months that I dedicated time to focusing solely on weightlifting and particularly on squatting. I started slow and with easy weight. Then, I built a foundation of strength over the next year by focusing on doing a lot of repetitions. Not only did I avoid testing my one rep max, I didn't do less than a set of five for almost a year. Only after handling a lot of volume did I decide to dial up the intensity. The Smolov squat program has a reputation for being particularly intense, but because I prepared with so much volume, I was ready to handle the intensity. This method requires patience, but it works.

8. Measure something. We spend most of our days living in a gray area. Are you a better person today than you were yesterday? Are you a better parent? A better leader? A better friend? It can be hard to tell on most days. This is why I believe that we should test ourselves and measure our progress.

Seven weeks ago, I tried to squat 405 pounds and failed. Last week, I succeeded. I can tell you without hesitation that I am better today than I was seven weeks ago. No debate. No ego. No fluff. Black and white proof. Perhaps more importantly, I know who I am and who I am not.

When you measure your results, you cannot hide from yourself. You cannot lie to yourself. You cannot pretend to be something else. Best of all, there is no reason to fear failure because no matter what the outcome, you understand yourself better. What are you measuring in your life?

9. Short-term results are only useful when considered through a long-term context. History is filled with examples of people who have sacrificed their values, morals, friends, and families to achieve short-term results of some kind. If you're obsessed with a particular goal, then it can be surprisingly easy to find yourself making exceptions and just-this-once choices you may regret later. If, however, you view your short-term choices within the context of your long-term values, then it becomes much easier to celebrate in the moment without losing sight of what really matters.

I was proud and happy when I squatted 405 pounds. I celebrated the feat. But I also know that the process is more important than the goal. I'm going to enjoy this one, but I'll be back in the gym on Monday.

10. 500, I'm coming for you.

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

This article was originally published on

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To Make Big Gains, Avoid Tiny Losses

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2014 | 4:28 PM

In many cases, improvement is not about doing more things right, but about doing less things wrong.

To understand what I mean, we need to take a trip to Japan.

The Curious Case of Japanese Television Sets

In the decades that followed World War II, the manufacturing industry in America...

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Time Assets vs. Time Debts: A Different Way of Thinking About Productivity

(0) Comments | Posted December 8, 2014 | 11:50 AM

Late in his career, Steve Jobs famously drove his car without a license plate.

There were all sorts of theories about why Jobs decided to drive without tags. Some people said he didn't want to be tracked. Others believed he was trying to make a game of avoiding parking tickets....

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Hacking the Workout Journal: How to Track Your Workouts in the Simplest, Most Effective Way Possible

(2) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 8:34 AM

Today I'm going to share my system for recording my workouts.

In my opinion, tracking your workouts (whether it be with a workout journal, a fitness app, or something else) should accomplish three goals...

It should be quick and easy, so that you can spend your time exercising. Your time...

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Martha Graham on the Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 10:23 AM

Agnes de Mille had just achieved the greatest success of her career, but right now the only thing she felt was confusion.

She was a dancer and a choreographer. Early in her career, de Mille had created the choreography for a ballet called Three Virgins and a Devil. She thought...

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How Experts Practice Better Than the Rest

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 7:42 AM

My dad and I were standing in the front yard. Maybe that's why I remember it. We typically practiced baseball in the backyard, but for some reason we were out front that day. I was around 9 years old and learning how to pitch. My dad was walking me through...

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